When the Baseball Writers Association of America reveals its award winners in November, they will invite comparison to the postseason which will get underway this week: they'll not include the Red Sox.
If you've been watching, you know the obvious -- there is precious little to celebrate about the 2020 Red Sox season. The team stumbled out of the game and then endured a nine-game losing streak in mid-August that sealed its fate. From that point on, they became irrelevant.
Still, tradition dictates that we wrap things up by selecting the best performances of a pandemic-shortened year that was forgettable in nearly every way.
The envelope please:
Red Sox MVP: Alex Verdugo
While it could certainly be argued that no one was very valuable for a team with the second-worst record in the league, Verdugo's first season in Boston deserves some recognition. He proved to be a well-above-average defender in both outfield spots, an aggressive and determined baserunner and an effective leadoff hitter.
He hit lefties, and, as all good lefthanded hitters must do to thrive at Fenway, learned to utilize The Wall to his benefit. He brought energy every day, and in a year in which hope seemed to take a vacation, provided a glimmer of good will for the franchise's future.
Red Sox Pitcher of the Year: Nathan Eovaldi
It would be a stretch to suggest that things would have turned out far differently had Eovaldi not missed a little more than three weeks with a calf muscle pull. By the time he went down in the third week of August, the team's fate had already been determined. In fact, it could be fairly said the Sox' chances to contend were wiped out when the rotation lost both Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez before the season even began.
Eovaldi's numbers (4-2, 3.72) will not gain him entrance into the Cy Young Award race. But Eovaldi consistently managed to do what so many others in the rotation couldn't: give the Red Sox a chance to win. The fact that the Sox won two-thirds of Eovaldi's starts (six of nine) suggests he might be the team's second most valuable player.
Rookie of the Year: Bobby Dalbec
When the Red Sox traded popular first baseman Mitch Moreland at the deadline, it opened the way for Dalbec to begin his major league career. Few could have predicted the immediate impact he would have.
Dalbec homered in his second at-bat, and a week later, homered in six consecutive games. He enters the final game of the season with eight homers in 22 games, and pace that over a full season would translate to.....Nah. Never mind. There's work to be done with his approach and the strikeouts need to be scaled back. But over the second half of September, Dalbec made some necessary adjustments and produced more consistent at-bats. More than anything, Dalbec represents a reason to look forward to 2021 and beyond.
Biggest disappointment: J.D. Martinez
Since he talked about it incessantly, the Red Sox should dearly hope that Martinez's mysterious downturn was solely the result of not being able to review in-game video. Because otherwise, the possible explanations for a player experiencing a better than 200 point dip in OPS are far more troubling -- especially for a player who is due almost $39 million over the next two years.
Biggest surprise: Tanner Houck
It's important to keep in mind some context. Keep repeating to yourself, "It was just three starts....it was just three starts.'' But, boy, what a three starts it was. And against quality competition, too. As exciting as Houck's brief debut was (0.53, 0.882 WHIP, 4.8 K-to-BB ratio), the best part of Houck's introduction to the big leagues is the fact that the organization can, indeed, develop pitching.